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Renaissance - Illusion CD (album) cover

ILLUSION

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

3.07 | 238 ratings

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Warthur
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Like the second King Crimson album, Renaissance's sophomore effort was pieced together at a point in time when the original lineup had completely disintegrated. But whilst Fripp and Sinfield were able to produce a reasonably good album from the wreckage of the Court of the Crimson King lineup of their band, here there just isn't a sufficiently stable core to produce a sound album around.

Jane Relf is, in fact, the only musician who appears on all of the tracks this time around. Jane Relf are the only two musicians who perform on each of the album's tracks; four of the six include the original band lineup, the closing epic "Past Orbits of Dust" sees Don Shin sit in on keyboards in place of John Hawken, whilst Mr. Pine sees Jane Relf and John Hawken backed by an otherwise completely different lineup - including Michael Dunford in his first appearance on a Renaissance album. (In fact, he composes the song, due to primary Renaissance songwriters Keith Relf and Jim McCarty having departed.) Another Renaissance first is the lyrics contributed to Past Orbits of Dust and Love is All by Betty Thatcher, an old school friend of Jane Relf who essentially wrote poetry for her own pleasure and who after being introduced to the band would contribute lyrics to most of the classic era albums.

When you put together Past Orbits of Dust's 14-minute runtime and Mr Pine's 7 minutes, almost half the album isn't recorded by the lineup that produced the first Renaissance album, and it has to be said that the two tracks recorded by alternate lineups are rather inferior. Past Orbits of Dust was essentially recorded by most of the original lineup plus Don Shin as a rush job to get the album finished, whilst Mr Pine comes across as disjointed and sketchy, like a demo which needs polishing up. As for the original lineup's efforts, it's clear that at this stage of their life inspiration was beginning to get thin on the ground - Love Goes On is a syrupy, lightweight song which is easily the least interesting of the original Renaissance's compositions, and Love Is All is saved only by Jane Relf's gorgeous vocal performance. Face of Yesterday is pretty dramatic but it seems to me that it could have done with a bit more polishing - it seems that the band agreed, since when this lineup reformed as Illusion (minus Keith Relf, who unfortunately had died shortly before the reunion happened) they had another stab at getting it down on Out of the Mist.

The highlight of the album is The Golden Thread, an astral projection-themed composition which includes superb vocal performances from both Jane and Jim McCarty and fine instrumental performances all round. On balance, it's worth a listen if you're a Renaissance fan, but I wouldn't say it's worth tracking down this album solely for that one track. Get Illusion if you're a collector - or if you're buying it as part of the excellent value Innocents & Illusions double CD set, which compiles both of the original Renaissance lineup's albums and throws in some delicious lost tracks to boot.

Warthur | 2/5 |

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